Three fast bowlers – Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur – have flown out to Australia to join the rest of the Indian World Cup squad.
The main squad left last week but there was one vacant seat on the plane with the injured Jasprit Bumrah missing. He had injured his back again in a warm-up for a recent T20I against Australia and subsequent tests revealed that he had suffered a lower back fracture that might keep him out of action for up to six months.
Although no official replacement has yet been named, the fact that the three have now been flown out indicates that the Indian selectors are looking to give themselves plenty of options.
None of the other reserve players named in the original squad – Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Chahar and Ravi Bishnoi are travelling at the moment, and Chahar’s opportunity may already have passed him by.
He too has picked up a back injury and he was forced to miss the recent ODI series against South Africa.
Iyer starred with the bat in that series, and he will yet be hopeful of joining up with the rest of the party in the coming week or so.
Shami’s fitness doubts
There are doubts about the fitness of Shami, who has not played a T20I since the 2021 World Cup last November. He caught Covid at the start of last month and that kept him out of the home series against both Australia and South Africa.
Prior to that he last played competitive cricket on India’s tour of England in July, and, although he has been training at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, that is no substitute for match fitness.
Siraj bowled well against South Africa
Siraj did feature in the ODI series against South Africa, and, although he struggled in the first match, did well in the next two, returning figures of 3 – 38 and then 2 – 17. He, though, has only played in 5 previous T20Is for India, and his bowling average in the format for his country is a very modest 41.80.
Thakur more experienced option
Thakur is a more experienced option, having been capped 25 times at T20I level by India, although he has not played in the format since appearing against the West Indies in February. He has taken 33 wickets to date, with his best being the 4 – 27 he took against Sri Lanka in 2018 in Colombo.
India have been based in Perth where they have been playing in several practice games against Western Australia sides. They are then due to fly to Brisbane where they will play two official warm-up games, first against the hosts Australia on October 17th. Two days later they will face New Zealand. It remains to be seen if any of the trio are involved in those matches, as this will be the clearest indication yet as to what role, if any, they can expect to play in the World Cup.
The first match
The first match in the competition itself will take place on October 23rd, when their opponents at the MCG in Melbourne will be their traditional foe Pakistan (a repeat of their recent meetings in the Asia Cup).
Four days after that, they will face yet to be determined opponents in Sydney (it depends on the outcome of a qualifying competition), followed by matches against South Africa and Bangladesh.
They will return to Melbourne for their final group game against another qualifier on 6th November.
Only the top two teams in each group will progress through to the knock-out stages of the competition. In the event that teams are tied on points, Net Run Rate will be used to determine the order of precedence.
The current odds
Despite the absence of Bumrah, India are currently the favourites to win the trophy for only the second time in their history (the first time was back in 2007, the inaugural year it was staged).
England are just behind them in the market, followed by the hosts and then New Zealand. Of course, as India found to their cost in the Asia Cup recently, being pre-tournament favourites counts for nothing if the team subsequently fails to deliver on the pitch
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